After bringing up the I Dream of Jeannie poll this week, I thought this might be a good thing to note: If you haven't seen I Dream of Jeannie before or would like to see it again, TV Land has gone back to the early episodes of the series.
The first ~ 30 episodes are in Black & White (originally aired in 1965-66), but that hardly damages their light hearted comedy. I Dream of Jeannie airs several times a day, with a primetime slot at 10:30 central time (right after I Love Lucy). If you get a chance, go ahead and blink on your TV set at that time. An “executive Jeannie summary” is below to help you get started.
Since the pilot episode is being skipped over on primetime (they appear to be airing even numbered episodes this time around, they aired odd numbered ones since Jeannie arrived on TV Land in June), let me give you the executive summary if you are a new (or soon to be) fan. This is a spoiler for the pilot episode, but since it won't be airing again for some time, you may want to read this so that you know how things got started.
Captain Anthony “Tony” Nelson (Larry Hagman) is in the Air Force, serving as an astronaut at NASA in Coco Beach, Florida. During an problematic rocket launch during the pilot, the orbiter that Nelson is in fails to get into space and crashes next to an island. On the (not so proverbial) desert island, he finds an interesting bottle and uncorks it. To his surprise smoke pours out of the bottle and a 2,000 year old genie named Jeannie (Barbara Eden) appears. Jeannie had promised herself that should would forever serve the person who rescues her and immediately seeks to grant whatever wishes Captain Nelson had.
After wishing Jeannie to learn English (she only knows Arabic), Tony is rescued by a search plane looking for him that Jeannie blinks onto the right path (Jeannie folds her arms and “blinks” to make things happen). Before the plane gets to him he wishes that Jeannie is free to do whatever she wants and leaves her on the island (or so he thinks). Jeannie has other intentions and rolls her bottle into Nelson's bag.
After arriving back at Coco Beach, Nelson's first indication that Jeannie came along is after Nelson and his fiancee walk into his house for dinner. Jeannie comes into the room, which needless to say leads toward the eventual demise of Nelson's engagement, much to his chagrin (he finds he can't get rid Jeannie — how do you get rid of magical being that doesn't want to leave?). While Jeannie will generally grant her “master's” every wish, she will not grant his wish for her to leave (since his one wish was that she be free to do whatever she wants, she doesn't have to do what he wishes even though she normally does) — she wants to marry him instead.
This and a few other events lead NASA's psychologist, Dr. Alfred Bellows (Hayden Rourke) to suspect that the crash landing has somehow caused Captain Nelson to be psychologically disturbed. In one of the few times Nelson in anyway acknowledges his having a genie to Bellows, he chases the garbage truck after throwing away Jeannie's bottle with Jeannie in it (even though he wants to get rid of her, he isn't a cruel guy and so he doesn't want her to be crushed and left in a garbage dump). The good captain doesn't rerelease Jeannie from the corked bottle until after Dr. Bellows leaves, so this appears to be some kind of hallucination on the part of Nelson in the eyes of the doctor. As Nelson dug furiously through the garbage truck before finding the bottle, Bellows assures him that he doesn't need to dig in the truck since NASA can get him all the trash he could possibly want.
This pretty much sets the stage for the whole show. Dr. Bellows begins monitoring Captain Nelson's erratic behavior (caused by trying to cover up Jeannie's magic), despite Nelson's attempts to suggest that his digging in the trash episode was only to “fool” Dr. Bellows into thinking he was crazy. From this point on Nelson decides it would be better not to reveal the fact that he has a genie to anyone (a few people will learn eventually, but that's another story).
Also introduced in this episode is Army* Captain Roger Healey (Bill Daily), Nelson's partner in space program projects. Healey is an all around nice guy, but he's one sandwich short of a picnic — he lacks common sense and always is one step behind what is going on. While Nelson is far more serious than Healey, they get along well most of the time, and Healey is Nelson's best friend.
So, that's it. The stage is set. These few concepts and conditions manage to put everything in motion that made I Dream of Jeannie's plot for five years and 139 episodes. Don't let all of the details overwhelm you, unlike some series — take Star Trek as an example — if you don't remember everything you won't be lost. Things will just make a bit more sense faster if you know how everything happened.
* It is often overlooked that Healey was in the Army and Nelson was in the Air Force. However this is the trivia answer as to why Nelson and Healey have different color uniforms (you'll notice this in the color episodes).